I Know HIV
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knowing someone means learning something

Fill out the form below to send a question to one of our experts on HIV and AIDS. We encourage you to ask anything that comes to mind – we want to make sure everyone has their questions about HIV and AIDS answered so they can help inform others, too!

4 responses to “Ask An Expert”

  1. Bob says:

    Dear Dr.

    My question requires some explanation beforehand. Please bare with it for a moment. I’d very much appreciate it.

    I recently went to get tested at a free HIV support facility the other day, where they use the rapid screening test kit. It’s basically like this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbQeGer6kM4&feature=related

    The result came out negative. I was immediately happy but as I exited the room I accidentally turned the door knob using my left palm, which had the middle finger that was poked to draw blood.

    It occurred to me immediately that other HIV testers might have done the same. The doorknob could very well be full of dry blood stains from the countless fingers that have been poked to draw blood for the test. Much worse, it could’ve had a droplet (or more) of blood from the testee before me, who could’ve turned the door with the hand that was given for the test.

    I was immediately shocked but my counsellor told me not to worry because the HIV virus cannot last long in the air. I didn’t wash my hands immediately, thinking that that made sense.

    But then when I got home to google the rate of HIV viral survival outside a host, the findings seem inconclusive. Plus that poke for the test,however little, can still be regarded as an open wound.

    At any rate, here are the reasonings that have been on my mind since then

    Why I should worry:
    1) I had an “open wound”. The poke was tiny, but it’s nonetheless broken tissue.
    2) The person before me could have turned the knob with wet blood, however little.
    3) The poke on my hand could have been exposed to whatever possible little wet blood that could have been on the doorknob from the person before me.

    Why I am being paranoid
    1) VERY little blood was drawn. The poke is tiny.
    2) There was no longer any blood on my finger. The wound was open, but not flowing.
    3) There would be very little blood on any testee’s finger.
    4) The testee before me couldn’t have opened the door with his bad hand since we were all given cotton to cover the wound after the test (before being recalled later for the result)
    5) I was the first tester of the day, so the doorknob could not have had much mis-spilled blood on it.

    At any rate, which is the more compelling reason? Please help me gain some clarity and calm over this issue that’s been haunting my mind.

    Thank you in advance.

    • Erin says:

      Thank you for writing. I am sure this experience was confusing for you.

      When HIV tainted blood (or any fluid that carries HIV, for that matter) hits the air, the virus dies within 7-11 seconds, on average. This all depends on the amount, the environment, and some other factors, but 7-11 seconds is pretty general for this situation. Given the size of your poke wound, the time between visitors, and the likelihood that the former visitors smeared blood on the doorknob, I would think it is safe to say that you did not put yourself at much risk in this situation.

      Thank you for submitting your question. It is great that you are getting tested. Remember, if you are partaking in risky behaviors like sexual activities, IV drug use, cutting, etc, you should be getting repeat tests every 4-6 months. Read more about the testing “window” on the website.

      All the Best,
      iKnow HIV Expert- Erin

  2. Cooper says:

    I have a friend that I resently discovered had HIV from birth, ok and my questions are will it go dormant like herpes? Does it have outbreaks meaning us there a certain time that its not contagious? Will it affect her health wise in a day to day life?

    Thank you
    B. Cooperation

    • Erin says:

      B. Cooperation,

      Thank You for your questions. These are important things about HIV that you should understand. The only similarity between HIV and herpes is that once you have it, it doesn’t go away. Both are incurable. HIV does not go “dormant” or have flare-ups. There is a stage called “undetectable” that you may look up, but this does not mean that a person no longer has HIV. When someone is infected with HIV, they are most infectious is in the first stage, called Acute HIV Infection. This stage occurs about two weeks after someone becomes infected, but can occur up to three months after infection. During this time, the amount of HIV in blood and other body fluids, such as semen (including pre-cum) and vaginal fluids, is very high. Because of this, HIV can be transmitted from person to person very easily during this stage. The problem with this stage occurring so early is that most people do not know that they are infected at this time. An HIV test is testing for HIV antibodies, which take your body time to build up. An accurate HIV test is usually taken two to eight weeks after the person is infected.

      You said that your friend contracted HIV through the birthing process, so she is most likely well past the Acute Infection stage. She does still have the virus, but hopefully she is keeping it well controlled by taking medication.

      We are glad that your friend disclosed her status to you, this must mean you are a really great friend. Hopefully you visited our site to learn more about the virus, and how you can further support your friend.

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